How to choose the best event management software for you
Event technology has practically exploded in the 21st Century, with thousands of software platforms and apps that event organizers, event managers, venue managers and caterers can choose from.
And the event management software market might just be the broadest of all the event tech markets, mainly because so many types of tools are included under the umbrella of event management, which spans from enterprise-level conference and meeting management software, event registration and ticketing tools, events apps and virtual event platforms to venue management software and event design and layout tools.
What can be even more intimidating is the sheer number of event management systems (which often fall under the rubric of software-as-a-service or SaaS) that offer one, many or most of these tool and feature sets, all with different configurations and pricing structures.
For example, all-in-one event management software solutions like Planning Pod provide a well-balanced set of tools for planning, registration and event management for events under 1,000 people as well as toolsets for venues to manage their room and space bookings, leads, billings, menus and food-and-beverage orders. Tools like Bizzabo, Cvent and Boomset have more enterprise, complex tool sets for managing large, 1,000+ conventions and trade shows. And yet other event software tools are available for niches like event ticket sales, event websites or event pages, mobile event apps, webinars, hybrid events, fundraising events for nonprofits and more.
For an event organizer or venue manager who simply wants the right tools to manage successful events, this can all be a bit daunting, which is why we are going to walk you through the nine most common tool sets that are marketed under the banner of event management software.
NOTE: Although this article is a great place to learn about what event management tools are available in the marketplace, you should first sit down and determine what software and functionality needs you will require for your future events. No event professional’s software wish list is the same, as organizers who plan events for corporations or nonprofits may have dramatically different needs from those of venue managers / sales managers. With that said, take the time to make a list of those needs so that, when you are shopping for the best event management solution for your organization, you know exactly what you are looking for.
Top 10 Event Management Software Apps
Before we get started, let’s take a look at the best event management software options that are popular with event organizers and event managers.
1. Planning Pod - With more than 20+ integrated tools and packages for event venues (including restaurants and hotels), caterers and event planners, our platform offers a complete all-in-one solution for professionals in any event setting.
What sets Planning Pod apart from other solutions?
- Broad base of tools - Includes the ability to manage business details, event bookings, food-and-beverage orders, scheduling, event planning, event design, attendee management, ticketing/registration and more.
- Time saving by simplifying processes - Our tools significantly streamline our customers’ operations, saving them an average of 62+ hours per month of busywork.
- Intuitive and easy-to-use - Our tools simplify managing details and staying current on all your events by making it easy to enter and track critical data. They also eliminate the need to double-enter data.
- Cost savings - Because we offer a true all-in-one solution, you no longer need many applications to manage your events, bookings and clients, cutting your software costs significantly.
- Full training and customer support - Our customers get up-and-running in hours to days - not weeks to months - with our live online training. And if they ever need help, their questions are answered fast with our dedicated email and live chat support plus comprehensive help center.
2. Eventbrite - One of the largest event directories and communities in the world, Eventbrite offers event organizers the ability to sell tickets, build custom event webpages and registration forms, launch virtual events and promote your events via email, social media and the Eventbrite directory. Great for any type of event, including concerts, seminars, conferences and classes.
3. Cvent - If you manage large events like conventions and trade shows as well as online events, Cvent is an comprehensive enterprise event management platform for virtual and hybrid and in-person events and webinars. Its features include event registration tools, event websites and content management, email communications, event mobile apps, attendee engagement and networking, project management and exhibitor management. Cvent also offers platforms for venues and event planners to connect.
4. Whova - Looking for a cost-effective solution for your event promotions and registrations? Whova has you covered, with an event app featuring agendas, live polling, networking and gamification; event registrations and ticketing with custom webforms; event management tools for managing speakers, attendees, check-ins and social walls; and event marketing tools like websites, bulk emailing, social media posting and website traffic monitoring.
5. Eventtia - Capable of managing virtual or live events, Eventtia offers a full suite of event registration and promotional tools as well as online event hosting, which includes ticketing, websites, emailing, live streaming, virtual matchmaking, attendee management and event apps. It also provides event management tools for managing tasks, agendas, surveys, polling, exhibitors, sponsors and trade show booth registrations.
6. Social Tables - Now part of the Cvent family of applications, Social Tables provides tools for building interactive floor plans and room layouts as well as an event CRM for managing sales and catering leads and clients. Restaurants and hotels will appreciate its functionality for managing BEOs, tasks and contracts.
7. Aventri - Formerly known as eTouches and having recently merged with Meeting Play, Aventri offers a broad suite of tools for live or on-demand virtual events as well as in-person events. Included with their offerings are tools for elevating the attendee experience like networking and engagement tools + mobile apps; event registration and websites; virtual booths with lead generation features; sponsor and exhibitor management; badging and check-in; and reporting and integrations.
8. Eventzilla - Mainly a platform for event registration and marketing, Eventzilla offers ticketing and registration tools for live and virtual events, including event websites, email promotion, SEO tools, event registration form widgets, schedule builder, attendee management, check-in, reporting and mobile apps.
9. Bizzabo - Positioned as a platform to elevate the event experience, Bizzabo provides functionality to promote and host virtual events as well as run in-person events. Great for conferences, webinars, marketing and non-profit events, it offers an event website builder, dynamic registration forms and flows, data-driven event marketing tools, attendee management and activity tracking, sponsor and speaker management, badging and lead retrieval, agendas with personalized content, networking and attendee engagement tools and broadcasting/video production services.
Event Planning Software
Often many people think event planning and event management are synonymous, but to be honest, event planning software is a subset of event management that focuses on the behind-the-scenes, nuts-and-bolts organizational aspects of events.
This category of event technology has a project management slant with tools that aim to establish workflows and increase productivity when planning multiple events, which is why you will find that many event planning software platforms include tools for managing:
- Collaborations, including employees, team members, stakeholders and volunteers
- Vendors and suppliers
- Event budgets, including costs and income
- Run-of-show timelines and schedules
- Task managers for tracking project management flow, deadlines and milestones
- Shared or team calendars
- Internal and external communications
Enterprise-level event software apps like Cvent, Bizzabo, Eventbrite and Boomset may also include event planning tools that assist with exhibitor management, sponsor management and more complex event logistics.
Online Event Registration
Online event registration and ticketing tools may make up the largest portion of the event management software market, possibly due to both the high demand for selling event tickets online and the potentially high profit margins.
You will commonly find the following features offered by various registration and ticketing platforms:
- Event websites or web pages for promoting your event + online ticketing
- Customizable online registration forms for setting up tickets and collecting registrations, attendee details and payments
- Sponsorship signups and payments as well as donation collection for fundraising events
- Credit card payment processing, which can include credit card processing fees plus per-ticket service charges from the software provider
- Email communications for sending out registration confirmations, notifications and announcements
- Analytics and reporting throughout the entire event lifecycle for tracking online registrations, revenues and attendance
Note that it is common to see event planning software suites and event apps include event registration and ticketing tools as well as guest list managers in their offerings.
When reviewing event registration tools, pay close attention to the following:
- How the platform will enhance your attendees' event experience from the first touchpoint through the entire registration process and pre-event time period
- Pricing structure, including fees and service charges
- Ticketing setup options, including nested tickets, add-ons, discount codes, timed pricing, questionnaires, donations and legal terms
- Event marketing options, including websites and social media integrations that can help you attract and sell tickets to more attendees
Floor Plan Creation
Online event design tools have become more and more popular over the last decade as they play an increasingly larger role in the event planning process. They have also become more sophisticated and feature-packed so that they more resemble graphic design software applications in both their user interface and the professional designs you can create with them. However, because many event layout solutions integrate with their own attendee management and check-in tools, they fall squarely under event management and planning. In fact, many of the best event management software solutions now have an integrated design and diagramming component.
Common features for event floor plan apps include element libraries (tables, chairs, furniture, etc.); customized room boundaries; reusable layout templates; automatic alignment of items; auto-generated layouts; and 2D and 3D representation.
Event organizers usually take one of two approaches in the marketing software tools they choose for their events:
- They use general marketing applications for managing email marketing campaigns (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.), social media posts and profiles (Hootsuite, AgoraPulse, etc.), websites and blogging (WordPress, SquareSpace, etc.), marketing analytics (Google Analytics) or all-in-one marketing platforms (Hubspot, Marketo, etc.).
- They use marketing tools included in their event management software application of choice.
Regardless of the path you decide to take, if your event management tasks include promoting and marketing your event, you should include this category of tools as part of your product evaluation as well as any necessary integrations with your existing event registration and ticketing tools.
Managing attendee registrations, contact information and outreach is a fairly common event management requirement, so it’s vital for most event and meeting planners to have a reliable event CRM solution for tracking this data.
In the past, a simple guest list tool would suffice in managing this data. But in this era of enhanced attendee engagement and analytics, you would be well served to identify an app that supplies more functionality, including:
- Registration order and questionnaire response tracking
- Assigned seating chart creation
- Advanced attendee detail tracking like VIP status, meal choices, track or session selections and group assignments
- Name badge creation
- Attendee check-in app with QR code scanner and ability to sell tickets at the door
- Event mobile app integration (more on this in a moment)
Another way to engage attendees and enhance the attendee experience prior to and on event day is to deploy an event mobile app. Typically these are used for larger conferences, conventions and trade shows, but really you can use them for any event where you feel your audience would benefit from tools that simplify how they stay informed and connected at your event.
Event apps allow organizers to automate and consolidate many functions and resources into a single app on a smartphone or tablet, and so the most common uses of event apps include:
- Online event program and directory
- Interactive digital map of event space
- Personalized schedule for each attendee
- Built-in attendee networking and communication tools
- Gamification of event mobile app networking and participation features
- Social media integrations
- Registration and ticketing integrations
- Polling and surveys
- Sponsor and exhibitor promotion
Note that some top event management systems don’t offer an integrated event app while others do. If a mobile app is something you don’t need, you may be better off with a SaaS application that focuses on other areas of priority; if it’s something you do need, make sure you have the ability to customize the mobile event app to suit your needs.
Event Business Tools
If you run an events-based business like an event venue or event planning firm, then you may want to consider event management platforms that include business and financial tools for managing clients and billing.
Often tools built specifically for the events industry will have particular features or functions that fit your needs better than generic business or financial tools, but this is something you will need to consider when making your assessment. And there may be certain business management tools (like for accounting, customer relationship management, word processing/spreadsheets, etc.) that don’t fall under the aegis of event management.
With that said, these are the most popular tools and features that are sought after by business-minded event professionals:
- Lead management - contact manager, lead webforms, pipeline/funnel tracking, fast lead retrieval
- Email communications - account inbox, integration with existing email addresses, drip campaigns, email marketing tools
- Proposals - line items, categories, image gallery, electronic signature capture
- Contracts - standard legal language templates, electronic signature capture
- Invoices - line items, categories, installment billing, deposit tracking
- Payment processing - credit card transactions, ACH transactions
- Financial reporting - revenues, open invoices, past due payments, financial analytics
One thing to attend to is that if you use accounting software like Quickbooks, the business tools in your event management platform should integrate with your bookkeeping tool of choice. Otherwise you will be wasting lots of time double entering data into two software apps.
Any venue that rents out its space or engages in group sales or catering sales (which includes restaurants and hotels as well banquet halls, wedding venues and event facilities within golf courses, wineries, breweries, museums and libraries) is also in the events business, and as such needs event tech tools and venue software apps to help them run the events side of their business.
These venues will probably require some or all of the business tools mentioned above (especially the lead management and invoicing tools) as well as the following additional features:
- Booking management - team calendars, integrations with other e-calendars, space/time holds, double-booking prevention
- Event room/space tracking - reservation tracker, floor plan setup templates, room limitations/amenities
- Food-and-beverage management - food/beverage items (ingredients, recipes, portion sizes, etc.), menu building, quantities/headcounts, billing, offsite and onsite catering orders
- Kitchen management - banquet event orders, kitchen orders, ingredient and shopping lists
- Resource management - inventory tracking (rentals, glassware/plateware, linens, audio visual, etc.)
Note that there is a difference between top event venue software platforms (which focus on the ability to manage the events business and customers for a venue) and platforms for facility management (which focus on room and equipment reservations, maintenance, security, lease administration, etc. for an entire building or facility).
Virtual Event Platforms
Possibly the newest form of event technology on this list, virtual event management software has grown in popularity in the 2000s as event planners and event attendees alike have found value in exposing their live events to an Internet audience. Since the arrival of the coronavirus epidemic, this technology has experienced massive growth because it has enabled the events industry to take events online during periods of stay-at-home and social distancing during the COVID-19 threat.
How do virtual event tools fit into the world of event management apps? Mainly by enabling event professionals to self-broadcast events in real-time from a single location or from multiple remote locations. In the past, these tools were used mainly for webinars and training purposes, but now you can find entire conferences and trade shows being broadcast virtually as well as smaller meetings and even social events. These tools are also being deployed more frequently for creating hybrid events, which have both in-person and virtual audiences ... an approach that can boost attendee engagement for your virtual audience by providing a more authentic “live” experience.
While some virtual event management solutions offer online registration / ticketing and event marketing tools (like event websites, email communications and event apps), most of them include these features:
- Live video/audio broadcasting in high definition
- Streaming of presentations and pre-recorded video content
- Attendee engagement tools (live chat, Q&A, live polling)
- Virtual networking rooms and apps
- Asset libraries for attendees (videos, white papers, etc.)
- Integration with social media live streaming platforms
As you can see, event management software can span a wide variety of tools, features and functions, so it’s best to start your search knowing exactly what you need to accomplish and what jobs you want the software to do in managing successful events. Once you have that list, finding the right fit is just a matter of trying out the solutions that align with your needs.